• Here Are Three Reliable Ways To Enhance The Major 2-5-1 Chord Progression

    in Chords & Progressions,Experienced players,General Music,Piano

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    In this lesson, I’ll be showing you how to enhance a major 2-5-1 chord progression.

    The major 2-5-1 chord progression is one of the most important chord progressions in jazz and other popular music styles like gospel, salsa, etc. In a previous post, we exposed you to how the major 2-5-1 chord progression is used  .

    It is because of the importance of the major 2-5-1 chord progression that we’re investing the the next 15 minutes of our time into a study on how to enhance it.

    However, before we do so, let’s do a breakdown on the major 2-5-1 chord progression.

    “What Is A Major 2-5-1 Chord Progression?”

    There are eight degrees in every key (be it a major or a minor key.) For example in the key of C major:

    …there are eight degrees.

    C is the first degree
    C is the second degree
    C is the third degree
    C is the fourth degree
    C is the fifth degree
    C is the sixth degree
    C is the seventh degree
    C is the eighth degree

    The movement of chords from one degree of the scale to another, creates a chord progression. For example, the movement from the chord of the first degree (aka – “chord 1”) to the chord of the second degree (aka – “chord 2”) produces a 1-2 chord progression.

    A Short Note On The Major 2-5-1- Chord Progression

    The 2-5-1 chord progression consists of the movement of chords from the from the second degree [of the scale] to the first degree of the scale THROUGH the fifth degree of the scale in any given major key.

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    In the key of C major:

    …a chord progression from the D minor triad (which is chord 2):

    …to the G dominant triad (which is chord 5):

    …then to the C major triad (which is chord 1):

    …produces a major 2-5-1 chord progression.

    “Using Seventh Chords, The Major 2-5-1 Chord Progression Would Sound A Lot Better…”

    A chord progression from the D minor seventh chord (which is chord 2):

    …to the G dominant seventh chord (which is chord 5):

    …then to the C major seventh chord (which is chord 1):

    …produces a major 2-5-1 chord progression.

    “Extended Chords Can Also Be Used…”

    A chord progression from the D minor ninth chord (which is chord 2):

    …to the G dominant seventh [flat ninth] chord (which is chord 5):

    …then to the C major ninth chord (which is chord 1):

    …produces a major 2-5-1 chord progression.

    Enhancing The Major 2-5-1 Progression Using Chord Quality Substitution

    The major 2-5-1 can be enhanced using the concept of chord quality substitution. This simply means that the quality of any of the chords in the major 2-5-1 can be substituted with another chord of a different quality.

    Here are the chord qualities of the chords used in the major 2-5-1 chord progression:

    Chord 2 – minor triad, minor seventh, minor ninth, etc.

    Chord 5 – dominant triad, dominant seventh, dominant ninth, etc.

    Chord 1 – major triad, major seventh, major ninth, etc.

    The concept of chord quality substitution has to do with the replacement of any of the chords in the major 2-5-1 chord progression with another chord of a different quality.

    For example, the regular D minor ninth chord:

    …used in the major 2-5-1 chord progression can be substituted with the D major ninth chord:

    Consequently, we’ll have an enhanced major 2-5-1 chord progression:

    D major ninth:

    G dominant ninth:

    C major ninth:

    …that sounds spicier than the regular major 2-5-1 chord progression.

    “Attention! Take Note Of The Following During Chord Quality Substitution…”

    Point #1. “…for chord 5”

    The best chord quality for chord five is the dominant quality. Chord quality substitution is possible for chord 5, however, this weakens the progression.

    For example, moving from the D major ninth chord:

    …to the G major ninth chord:

    …then to the C major ninth chord:

    …creates an enhanced progression, which is weak in terms of resolution.

    Point #2. “…for chord 1”

    Chord quality substitution doesn’t bode well for the tonic chord (aka – “chord 1”) except in rare occasions where dominant chords can be used to create a bluesy ending.

    For example, moving from chord 2 (the D minor ninth chord):

    …to chord 5 (the G dominant thirteenth chord):

    …then to chord 1 (the C dominant thirteenth chord):

    …sounds bluesy because of the chord quality substitution of chord 1.

    Enhancing The Major 2-5-1 Progression Using Borrowed Chords

    A borrowed chord is a chord that is derived from a parallel key.

    The key of C major:

    …has the key of C minor:

    …as its parallel key. The concept of borrowed chords can be understood as the use of the chords of the minor key in the major key and vice-versa.

    In the key of C minor:

    …chord 2 is the D half-diminished seventh chord:

    …and can be borrowed from the minor key to replace the D minor seventh chord:

    …which is chord 2 in the major key.

    “Check Out The Major 2-5-1 Chord Progression Using A Borrowed Chord 2…”

    Chord 2 (the D half-diminished seventh chord):

    Chord 5 (the G dominant ninth chord):

    Chord 1 (the C major ninth chord):

    Attention!

    Kindly restrict the use of borrowed chords to Chord 2 and chord 5. Borrowing chord 1 from the minor key is forbidden because it changes the orientation of the entire progression from being a major 2-5-1 chord progression, into being a minor 2-5-1 chord progression.

    Final Words

    I’m sure you’ve learned how to enhance the major 2-5-1 chord progression from the concepts we covered in this lesson. Believe it or not, mastering any one of the three concepts can revolutionize your playing. Then think of how far all three concepts will take your playing.

    In a subsequent lesson, we’ll explore other exciting concepts that can enhance the 2-5-1 chord progression. But before then, I recommend that you do your best to try out these enhancements in all twelve keys.

    See you in the next lesson!

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    Hello, I'm Chuku Onyemachi (aka - "Dr. Pokey") - a musicologist, pianist, author, clinician and Nigerian. Inspired by my role model Jermaine Griggs, I started teaching musicians in my neighborhood in April 2005. Today, I'm privileged to work as a music consultant and content creator with HearandPlay Music Group sharing my wealth of knowledge with thousands of musicians across the world.


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